Happy Blogging Anniversary! (to me)

Three years ago, I began my musings here at The Schell Cafe.   It’s a little hard for me to believe actually.  Granted I’ve taken a hiatus or two during the last thirty-six months.  When I was pregnant with Littlest I didn’t have a taste for anything and avoided the kitchen like the plague.  Hardly conducive to writing a food blog.  And, then last year there was the post-miscarriage hurt that induced the need for a distraction which ultimately led to tearing our house down.  Note: I didn’t personally tear the house down!  I had a whole team of brawny-types to do that.  I just needed a project and thought rebuilding the house would be fun.  Maybe therapy would have been a more sane approach?!?!

My blogging anniversary and the New Year have me in a very introspective mood, especially about The Schell Cafe. I started this blog with no intentions other than to keep a cooking journal, of sorts for my family.

I never dreamed my virtual cafe would bring in so many customers.  My wordpress stat counters tell me how many daily visitors stop by The Schell Cafe and the numbers are staggering to me. I know there are many more well read blogs out there, but in my little neck-of-the-blogosphere, several hundred visitors a day is a lot to serve.  And you come from all over the world –  Greece, Haiti, Germany, even New York City! 😉

You, dear readers, are truly the silver lining.  Especially the regulars who gather ’round my tables.  I have met some of the nicest people at my own cafe!  And, I’m flattered that you come to me for questions about onions, your cast iron skillet, what to feed young picky eaters, vegetarian menu suggestions, appetizer ideas, and even paint color recommendations!  Daily, I find emails from near and far seeking my advice from the kitchen or simply requesting recipes.  I am truly humbled by this. And  I am  increasingly feeling the need to figure out how to truly be of service to you.

So, here’s your chance!  Tell me, dear readers, what would you like more of at The Schell Cafe? Healthy recipes? Busy family meal suggestions? Haute cuisine dishes? More challenging recipes? Simple, quick recipes? Sustainable and Green living ideas? Printable recipes? Shopping suggestions?  Video/Live cam demonstrations?

I really would love to know what brings you to the cafe and what will keep you comin’ back for more.  Feel free to leave your requests in the comments below or email me directly at kristinschell (at) mac (dot) com.

Thank you!




Merry Christmas!


I started at least a dozen posts with wonderful recipes I intended to share over the last few days.  And here it is Christmas Eve and I didn’t get around to finishing them.  I guess I could claim that I’m ahead for next year instead of behind for 2008?!?!

Our Christmas Eve dinner (in a mere 8 7 hours) will be:

Spinach Salad with Oranges, Avocados & Red Onions

& Pomegranate Chipotle Dressing

Osso Buco

Risotto Milanese

Dulce du leche ice cream & Tuaca

Tomorrow however is still a moving target!!!  Even as I write our Christmas Day menu is evolving. Text messages and emails are flying back and forth with helpful updates on recipes, which store has the ‘good’ rolls, and even last minute menu changes.  For example, we were just given venison sausage from the largest axis on record in Texas this year.  Our dear friends (I so wanted to write deer friends) shared the bounty of their hunt and I am excited to add it to our Christmas table.  At the advice of Lulu, I will cook up the venison with a little beer (burp) and my sister-in-law’s Jezebel sauce for a delicious appetizer.  Nothing like last minute menu changes and a family of good cooks to execute!

*Update: One of the Littles just took a photo of me with Littlest.  She’s helping me taste the saffron risotto. ‘Nummy, nummy’, she said.


Whatever ends up gracing our table tomorrow, it will be the reason for our celebration that garners the most attention.  I hope that whether your family celebrates the birth of Christ or the festival of lights with a menorah or a kinara that you are surrounded by family and friends and blessed with the gifts of peace, joy and love.

Merry Christmas!



Grandma’s Oreo Peppermint Ice Cream Cake


I’ve never had a Christmas without this dessert.  If you’ve been around the cafe for a while, you can figure out that this will by my 41st Christmas.  That’s a lot of Oreo Peppermint Ice Cream Cakes.  Who knows how long my grandmother (Popa’s mother) made this treat before I joined the scene?!?  All I know is it wouldn’t be Christmas without this sweet tradition.

Mia took over the honor of making the cake when Grandma was no longer able.  And we are all grateful she’s kept the tradition alive, especially Popa and my brother.  This year, I’m stealing the duty from Mia.  Mostly, so I can share the love of our family’s Christmas cake with you.

Merry Christmas!

Grandma’s Peppermint Ice Cream & Oreo Cake

1 lg. pkg. of Oreo Cookies (hint: buy two packages!)
1/2 gal. (2 qt) Peppermint Ice Cream
1 stick of butter, melted
Pulse cookies in a food processor until coarsely crumbled.  Melt butter and add to cookies. Pulse until combined.  
Add 1/3 of cookie mixture to form crust in bottom of 9 x 13 pyrex dish.  Place crumb filled dish in freezer to set, 15 – 20 minutes.  Freezing crumbs makes it much easier to spread the ice cream!
Place ice cream in a large mixing bowl and allow to thaw slightly.  You should be able to stir the ice cream, but it will still be near frozen.  
Layer 1/2 of the ice cream on top of frozen crumb crust.  Layer 1/3 more of the cookies on top of the ice cream layer.  Place dish back into freezer to set, about 15 – 20 minutes.  I put the remaining ice cream in the fridge while the cake sets in the freezer.  You don’t want it to melt.
When cake is firm to the touch, remove from freezer and  repeat layering remaining ice cream and ending with cookies.  
Depending on how many cookies were eaten when  you started this recipe, you may or may not have enough cookie mixture to completely cover the cake.  If it looks slim, you can either add more cookies to the original mixture and pulse to combine or hand crumble a few and sprinkle on top!  
We were short about seven or eight cookies this year….I’ll let you decide where they went??!!! I had to dip into the extra package of Oreos to get enough cookies to cover our cake.  I think Grandma would have approved. 😉
The cake should be made at least 24 hours before serving.  Store in freezer and remove about 20 minutes before serving to make it easier to cut and serve.

Holiday Cookbook Gift Guide



Hopefully, you are way ahead of me and have finished your holiday shopping, neatly wrapped your perfect packages and tucked them all under a well lit Christmas tree.  No? Good, me neither.

If you are still looking for a gift for the foodie in your life, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite cookbooks to help you.

1. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  Winner of both the Julia Child Cookbook and the James Beard Foundation Awards, this hefty book is the ultimate reference guide.  It’s perfect for the emerging cook or experienced chef.  More hip and au courant than The Joy of Cooking, (which is still one of my faves), Bittman covers everything from A to Z including techniques, equipment, and thousands of delicious recipes.  

2. The Pace of Provence by Yolande Matore Hoisington. This slim little cookbook ranks in the top 5 of my all time favorites!  Hoisington combines the best of both worlds – authentic French meals prepared with a healthy spin.  A native of France who now lives in Seattle, Hoisington’s philosophy of preparing simple, healthy family meals most reflects my own personal style of cooking.  Read more about this cookbook from my entry almost three years ago – Our Pace is All Wrong.

3.  A Platter of Figs by David Tanis.  Perhaps THE cookbook of the season.  Chef extroridinare of Chez Panisse fame released his much anticipated cookbook this fall.  Critics claim these recipes are simple, I think they are simply elegant.  Figs is a beautiful read and will delight any foodie on your list. 

4.In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  This is not a cookbook, but anyone who is interested in preparing or eating (does that include everyone?) should read this compelling state of the union on our current food crisis.  Food crisis, you say?  Exactly.  Pollan will open your eyes and force you to think long and hard about the evolution of edible foodlike substances we consume.  His solution: Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants. 

5. The Way We Cook  by Sheryl Julian &  Julie Riven.  My dear foodie friend from Boston gave me this cookbook several years ago and I adore it.  Julian (food editor of The Boston Globe) and Riven (food writer and stylist) are long-time friends and co-authors of a weekly food column.  Fueled by a love of collecting recipes and spending time in the kitchen, these accomplished cooks have penned more than 20 years of experience in this anecdotal cookbook with wonderful regional favorites.

6. Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten.  What’s not to love about the Barefoot Contessa?!?  I have every one of her books and even made the trek to Dallas last year to meet her in person.  As the title reveals, Ina’s newest release takes a fresh spin on ordinary ingredients unlocking their essences.  The book does not disappoint….watch for my experience making her Roasted Brussels Sprouts soon.  Divine.

7.  Dallas Dish by The Junior League of Dallas.  Of all the genres of cookbooks I own, my Junior League collection is the largest.  Who better to trust than generations of home cooks to share tried and true regional and family favorites?  I love to collect League cookbooks from places I visit as a reminder of the local flavors.  My current favorite is Dallas Dish most likely because I grew up eating many of these delicious meals.  Whether you hail from Big D or not, this cookbook is a great Junior League choice. 

8.  Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters.  Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. Chef Bobo’s Good Food Cookbook by Robert W. Surles. I’m a huge believer that children should be allowed in the kitchen and encouraged to participate in the cooking.  I couldn’t come up with only ONE recommendation for children’s cookbooks so I’m sharing three of my favorites.  Each of these books is a delight.  

Narrated in the voice of Alice Waters’ daughter, Fanny tells the story of her daily life growing up at the famous Chez Panisse.  It’s a marvelous story and has delicious recipes at the end.   We’ve read this book so many times the Littles think they know Fanny personally! 

Pretend Soup is a beautifully illustrated cookbook and a great primer for school aged children.  The Littles use this book frequently on Kids Cook Night and can actually make the quiche recipe in this book by themselves now. (I still help with the oven).

Chef Bobo is a larger than life character who actually visited the Littles’ school a couple of years ago.  His story of redefining and remaking the school lunch is remarkable.  His recipes are too!

9. Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan. Husband gave me this cookbook for Christmas four or five years ago hoping I would succeed in the book’s claim ‘120 simple, delicious recipes you can prepare in 45 minutes or less’.  The recipes are so tasty and simple they will please anyone lucky enough to share at your table.  Husband loves to come home and find Hazan’s cookbook on the counter — it’s a sure sign I’m whipping up something wonderful for supper.

10. Extravagant splurge!!  The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal. I read about this lavishly illustrated masterpiece in The New York Times fall cookbook review.  Released at a whopping $295, this is the only book on my recommendation list that I do not own.  If there is anyone out there who isn’t feeling the economic crunch (and might I add lucky you!) please send me a copy. I’ll be happy to test recipes and give my opinion, just not on my own nickle!

As for me?  I’m always guaranteed a cookbook or two from Husband, Mia and other loved ones in my life.  This year I’m  hoping for both Cookwise and Bakewise by Shirley O. Corriher.

What about you?  What’s on your cookbook wish list?

Mary Had A Baby


I know, its a food blog.  But I could just eat her up, this Little of mine.  Littlest Middlest, as we lovingly call her around the cafe, will be playing the role of Mary today at the kindergarten Christmas pageant.  I’m feasting on the joy of motherhood today! May your day be blessed too.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies


Last year, Mia took the two middle Littles and I to the Teddy Bear Christmas Tea at the Four Seasons.  It was very swank and festive, but the best part about the event was scarfing savoring the Chocolate Ginger Cookies.  I made quite a fuss over these cookies. In fact, I’m a tad embarrassed how I completely ignored Santa, raced past him no less, on my mission to track down the pastry chef. But, with a year to dull the memory of my over zealous behavior I realized the recipe was well worth the begging.

Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego was a saint to give me the Four Seasons’ very coveted (at least by me) Chocolate Ginger Cookie recipe.  It took me a few tries to reduce the original recipe down to a manageable quantity.  And, I had to experiment a bit with cooking time to achieve the perfect bite – a tiny bit crunchy with a chewy, soft center.

We’ll be making another batch of these next week just for Santa.  I feel certain he’ll forgive me for ignoring him at the Four Seasons Tea once he tastes these delicious cookies.  You, my dear reader, may never forgive me for tempting you with these perfect Christmas treats.

Somehow in my rush to make and bake these cookies, my molasses glazed fingers changed the setting on my camera.  Sadly, I have few unblurred photos to share.  I documented the whole process, really I did, but will not continue to embarrass myself any further over these cookies.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

From the Four Seasons Hotel

12 oz chocolate chips (I used a mix of Ghirardelli semi-sweet and 60% bittersweet)

3 cups + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

2 Tbs cocoa powder (I used ScharffenBerger)

2 sticks butter

2 Tbs crystallized ginger (Whole Foods in bulk!), chopped as tiny as you can

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup molasses

bowl of granulated sugar for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and the brown sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Slowly add molasses scraping well after each addition.

Sift all of the dry ingredients and add them along with the chocolate chips and crystalized ginger bits to the bowl and mix until just combined.

Store the dough in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, over night is better.

Scoop about a tablespoon full of dough and roll in the palms of your hands until perfectly round and compact.  This is super messy, but so worth it!

Roll the rounded dough balls in sugar to coat and place on baking sheet.

Bake until puffy.  These cookies are best when slightly under baked.  After several attempts to determine the perfect baking time, 5 minutes yielded the perfect cookie for my taste.

Allow cookies to cool and store in an airtight container.

Note: One of Mrs. Kravitz’s Littles was here the day I made a test batch of these cookies.  He says the dough is just as good as the cookie.  And, he had enough of both to be considered an expert.


Ouise’s Homemade Chicken Enchiladas


Here’s a crowd pleaser from the recipe collection of one of my dear friends.  She was generous enough to share her chicken enchilada recipe with me during the recipe contest.  The entire family gobbled these delicious enchiladas up like we had never had Tex-Mex before.

I doubled this recipe so each of my hungry clan could have two enchiladas, but Husband says I need to triple it next time.  😉

Ouise’s Homemade Chicken Enchiladas

(Makes 6 enchiladas)

2 large bone in chicken thighs

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp herbs de provence

1/2 cup white onion, chopped

1 Tbs cilantro, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup salsa verde

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

6 corn tortillas

1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, grated


Fill pot with enough water to cover chicken.  Add garlic cloves and herbs de provence.  Boil chicken uncovered until cooked through.  Don’t overcook the chicken! Set chicken aside.

In a bowl mix the onion, cilantro, salsa verde and salt.  Cut chicken from bones (save bones for making broth – put in freezer) and cube or shred the meat.  Add to mixture and toss until well combined.

In a saucepan warm the heavy whipping cream.  Add tortillas, one at a time, coating with cream.  Roll chicken mixture in tortilla.

Add enchiladas to pyrex dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and pour remaining cream on top.

Bake at 300 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes.  Serve with black beans and rice.